3/12/2010

Name that quote, plus a request for history of analytic literature

Name the author and work for the following two quotes:

(1) "that is a priori which we can maintain in the face of all experience, come what will."

(2) "the whole body of our conceptual interpretations form a sort of hierarchy or pyramid with the most comprehensive, such as those of logic, at the top, and the least general, such as 'swans' etc. at the bottom; that with the complex system of interrelated concepts, we approach particular experiences and attempt to fit them, somewhere and somehow... Persistent failure leads to readjustment... The higher up a concept stands in our pyramid, the more reluctant we are to disturb it, because the more radical and far-reaching the results will be if we abandon it..."


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Answer: C.I. Lewis, Mind and the World-Order (1929): p. 231 and pp.305-6.

Now for the request. Quote (1) sounds very similar to Quine's 'an analytic sentence is one held true come what may' (especially because for Lewis the analytic and the a priori are coextensive). Quote (2) echoes Quine's description of the web of belief (with the major difference that the nodes of Quine's web are claims, not concepts). Does anyone know of a paper or book chapter that describes in detail the relationship between Quine and C.I. Lewis -- specifically Lewis's influence on Quine? Thanks in advance!

2 Comments:

At 12/3/10, Blogger Daniel Lindquist said...

I would also be interested in hearing about the Quine-Lewis literature. All I've come across is some remarks in a Davidson interview (reprinted at the end of "Problems of Rationality", quotes from p. 237):

"LEPORE: Was it obvious that Quine was brilliant at that early age?

DAVIDSON: You aren't kidding! Look, he had essentially no training in philosophy when he arrived at Harvard from Oberlin College. He had his PhD within two years....

LEPORE: Surely C.I. Lewis must have impressed Quine?

DAVIDSON: I do think that C.I. Lewis had a tremendous influence on Quine, but Quine doesn't realize it. The explanation for that is that Quine had no training in philosophy and so when he took Lewis's course in epistemology, he took for granted that this is what everybody knows about epistemology. Quine didn't realize that Lewis was any different from everyone else; pretty soon he worked out that there are some things he didn't agree with Lewis about, like the analytic-synthetic distinction. I don't think Quine would put it this way. As I said, I don't think he realized any of this, but you can find most of Quine's epistemology in C.I. Lewis minus the analytic-synthetic distinction. Epistemology naturalized is very close to the heart of C.I. Lewis. I don't think that Quine knows the extent to which there really is a sequence that starts with Kant and goes through C.I. Lewis and ends with Quine."

So, at least you're not the first person to notice a kinship here.

 
At 13/3/10, Blogger Greg Frost-Arnold said...

Thanks for reminding me of that, Dan -- I dimly remember reading that quote somewhere a couple of years ago, in an essay by Thomas Balwin, perhaps?

But I had never really read C.I. Lewis until very recently; and as I'm doing so, various bits indicate that Davidson's remark (though perhaps overstated) is definitely on target.

 

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